Engineering students from the Northern Regional College have won the IET Formula 24+ Greenpower NI & IE Championships. They were also placed third overall. Students designed and developed a single seat electric car and raced this against other school teams from across Northern Ireland and Ireland, as part of an engineering education initiative supported by pioneering local educators. All NRC students involved are currently studying Level 3 Extended Diploma in Engineering at the Newtownabbey Campus and their race team was called ‘Northern Thunder’.
This competition included pupils form local primary schools, FE colleges and Universities which means that within the Newtownabbey Area, young people from the age of 11 through to 25 years are learning about electric vehicles, how they are designed and manufactured and gaining valuable experience and transferrable skills. For some children and students, the project is the first time they have worked with tools or design software such as SolidEdge. They also have to harness support from local industry and the community, deploying marketing and enterprise skills.
NRC student, Stuart McVeigh from the mechanical team explained ‘the whole project was a brilliant experience right from the start to the race day and hopefully it will continue to be if we make it to the final at Rockingham in England. I have a great interest in motorsport and this project let me get a hands on and practical experience building an electric car. I took on a lot of responsibility along with others in the mechanical team (Bill Abernethy, Andrew Campbell and Stephen Peden) building the car and making it was mechanically ready for the race day. This project has helped me develop my team work and time management skills as we had to work to tight deadlines and work as a team to achieve a common goal.’
Matthew Logan, also a Level 3 student took sole responsibility for the media coverage of the Northern Thunder team. Matthew explains ‘I had a lot of responsibility looking after the media side of things by myself and there was a very late night before the race trying to get the portfolio put together. But all the hard work was worth it because I now realise the influence social media can have on a project and how important it was to keep a record of the project progression. The Facebook and Twitter pages are full of photos, videos and general updates of how we ended up winning the F24+ and were great to let our sponsors, friends and the college know how we developed the car.
The best local construction apprentices from across Northern Ireland tested their skills in 11 different construction trades at Skillbuild NI 2015. NRC apprentice Philip Kernohan won Gold in the Cabinet Making competing against the top apprentices from across Northern Ireland. Philip, a past pupil of Dunclug School joined the college as an apprentice bench Joiner in 2014 and is now hoping to build on his success at regional level by progressing to the UK Skill Build Finals. Philip is employed by Hayburn Wood Productions, leading specialists in luxury kitchens, fitted furniture and architectural joinery based in Galgorm and working throughout the UK and Ireland. Hayburn and Co have a long and very supportive association with the college as a leading employer in training top class tradesmen.
Skillbuild NI, run and governed by CITB NI, is held annually each spring with the top local construction apprentices competing to win coveted titles in skills areas ranging from brickwork to wall and floor tiling. The winners may then go on to represent Northern Ireland in the Skills Show UK and potentially at WorldSkills
Commending the competitors on their hard work and dedication shown in their area of expertise, Employment and Learning Minister Dr Stephen Farry said: “Skills are widely accepted as a key driver in how Northern Ireland can achieve our economic goals and developing the skills and talents of our young people is central to enabling local businesses to develop and grow, to improve our collective prosperity and meet the present and future needs of our economy.
“This competition is an excellent opportunity for our young people in the construction sector to showcase and celebrate their high level of skills and talent, as well as reflecting the high standards of training in our further education colleges and training organisations. Skills competitions are an essential part of the pursuit of excellence in our training systems and working practices.
“The last few years have been an exciting and successful time for skills competitions in Northern Ireland. There has been a year on year increase in the number and range of skills competitions taking place and competitors taking part and I hope this trend continues. Northern Ireland has a proud record of success in skills competitions at regional, national and world level. I am confident once again Northern Ireland will have an excellent representation on Team UK competing at WorldSkills 2015 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in August”
Skillbuild NI not only encourages trainees to improve their own skills, but provides an example of the high quality work being produced in training organisations and colleges across NI. The Skillbuild test pieces are designed to challenge the ability of apprentices, testing skills within tight timeframes and the competitors are being continuously assessed throughout the two day competition.
The competition is supported by the Department for Employment and Learning, Construction Employers Federation, Haldane Fisher, City and Guilds, Colleges NI and the Health and Safety Executive, along with local construction employers who sponsor each competition category.
The Northern Regional College Ballymena, hosted the Northern Ireland Engineering and Welding Regional Heat recently. Thirty eight students from across four Further Education Colleges competed in three different competitions, Mechanical Engineering CAD, Mechatronics and SkillWeld. Students await their results in the Mechanical Engineering CAD and Mechatronics competitions, but the winners of the SkillWeld event, the UK’s most prestigious national welding competition, were announced on the day, with Northern Regional College taking home three top awards: 1st place Scott Walker, 2nd Stuart Hamilton and 3rd David Cummings.
Trainee welders Scott, Stuart and David will now go onto the next stage of the competition and are in the running to secure a place in the national final.
Reacting to the news, Scott Walker said: “I can’t believe I have won a regional welding competition, which is a fantastic achievement. I’ve really enjoyed taking part in SkillWeld, as it has given me the chance to demonstrate my skills to some of the UK’s top welding experts, which is great to put on your CV.’
Kevin Sherry, Application Specialist, Northern & Offshore, at Air Products, lead sponsor of SkillWeld, said: “It has been fantastic to see so many talented professionals at this year’s competition, which has definitely been the toughest yet! We’d like to congratulate Scott on winning first place at SkillWeld and also well done to Stuart and David; it is a huge achievement and thoroughly deserved. We’re excited to see how they get on during the rest of the competition.”
Head of Engineering and Science Dr Brian Hill explains ‘We were delighted to host the Northern Ireland Regional heats for Engineering at Northern Regional College. Skills competitions are a key tool in raising standards of training, promoting skills, up-skilling the workforce and showcasing the opportunities that a vocational career route can offer. It is a fantastic achievement for both staff and students that NRC were placed 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the Advanced Welding finals. We await the results of the other competitions in due course.’